Richard Liuzzi SRC testimony – October 13, 2016

Click the picture to view the video.

My name is Rich Liuzzi, and I’m a member of Alexander Wilson School community,

and a student at the Penn Graduate School of Education.

Last week, Commissioners Neff and Houstoun announced that they will step down from their positions on the SRC.

This week, Superintendent Hite announced that 11 schools are targeted for major interventions within the next year.

Before these announcements, my plan was to speak about community control of schools.

Following these announcements, I’m convinced that this topic is more critical than ever.

I’m one of many citizens who believe that every community should have the power to determine how their school is designed and operated.

I believe that every school in this city should be a community school in which students, families, community members, and educators share equally and equitably in the responsibility for creating and sustaining schools that address their holistic interests and needs.

As we’ve seen, such power can’t be entrusted to unaccountable policymakers, politicians, and lobbyists.

Not the SRC, an unelected body that in the last 15 years is responsible for closing and charterizing schools in Black and Brown communities; for cancelling the PFT’s contract; and for disregarding the voices of students, families, and educators.

Not the state legislature that has consistently slashed the funding our schools desperately need.

Not the charter and voucher advocates, some of whom donated more than half of the $2.6 million consulting fee paid to the Boston Consulting Group for their report advising for 64 school closures by 2017, which is but one example of corporate reformers’ campaign to privatize public education in our city.

The School Quality Reviews conducted at each of the 11 schools will engage with school communities to gather feedback on school quality.

At first glance it seems to be a responsible approach to determine what assets these schools possess and what areas in which they require support.

But when I hear that schools only learned of this initiative last week, and that the SQR process will start as early as next week, and that reports of findings will be prepared within 4 weeks,

I find myself quite concerned and asking questions, such as:

Doesn’t this process seem quite hurried, and what exactly is the rush?

How will the district guarantee that a wide variety of school stakeholders and diverse perspectives will be included in a process that’s unfolding over such a short amount of time?

How engaged will school stakeholders actually be in the design and facilitation of the SQRs?

And in what ways is the district taking into account the trauma caused by its surprise announcement on each school’s ability to effectively participate in the process while still tending the day-to-day operations of their schools?

The skepticism and pessimism you may detect in my questions are borne out of experience.

From the fight against the undemocratic processes resulting in 24 schools being closed in 2013, and Huey and Wister being charterized last year.

From my disbelief that we have 9 new community schools in our city, and yet the community school approach is not one of the possible intervention options for these 11 schools (one of which is one of the pilot community schools).

From my belief that (as Frederick Douglass put it) power concedes nothing without a demand. Thus, I and many others call on the Mayor and Governor to appoint 3 new SRC members who will vote on their first day in office to abolish the SRC and return the School District of Philadelphia to local control.

And we demand that the School Quality Review process is conducted in the spirit of grassroots engagement and community self-determination in the hopes that it does not unfold in a manner that justifies our fears.

We will be watching. Thank you.